Does Grace Exclude Commitment?
by Bob Wilkin
Recently I received an interesting letter from a GES News reader from big-sky country, Bozeman, Montana. It concerned the relationship between grace and commitment. BH wrote:
I was very surprised to see that you used the word "committed" in the chart on page three [of the GES News] in relation to giving [i.e., committed financial support]. Second Corinthians 8:6-7 refers to giving as a grace. And if I understand what I have been reading from you the past several months, then grace and commitment are mutually exclusive.
The word grace has a number of nuances of meaning in English. The Oxford American Dictionary lists seven meanings:
- The quality of being attractive, especially in movement, manner, or design.
- Elegance of manner.
- Favor, goodwill.
- A delay or postponement granted as a favor, not as a right (e.g., give him a week's grace).
- God's loving mercy toward mankind.
- A short prayer of thanks before or after a meal.
- The title used in speaking of or to a duke, duchess, or archbishop (e.g., his Grace).
The Greek word charis which is often translated as grace lists five different meanings—some of which are the same as those given for the English word grace. The leading dictionary for NT Greek (Bauer, Gingrich, and Danker) lists the following meanings:
- Graciousness, attractiveness.
- Favor, gracious care, or goodwill… That which one grants to another, the action of one who volunteers to do something to which he is not bound.
- A gracious deed or gift, benefaction.
- [In] a number of passages charis is evidently understood in a very concrete sense…. It is hardly to be differentiated from dunamis (theou) [power of God], gnōsis [knowledge], or doxa [glory, splendor].
- Thanks, gratitude.
When we say that we are saved by grace (e.g., Eph. 2:8), we mean that eternal life is received by means of God's unmerited favor. Eternal salvation is not earned. It is a gift which springs from God's decision to bestow unmerited favor upon mankind.
Commitment on the part of the recipient is, of course, excluded as a means of obtaining eternal life. However, God's grace, the unmerited favor He bestows upon all who believe in Christ, does not exclude commitment on our part. Rather, it fosters it.
I remember the feelings which came over me when I first understood God's unmerited favor which He bestows on all who trust in Christ alone. I was thrilled. I was so very grateful for what He had done. God's graciousness motivated me to commit my life to Him. I still have those feelings today. Commitment is the natural and expected result of being saved by grace (Eph 2:8-10; Rom 6:1-23; 12:1-2).
For a believer to commit himself to give money for the Lord's work is not at all inconsistent with God's grace.